How’s this for a rare bird: There are a few hundred California condors alive today, and that’s an improvement.
Over the weekend, the California condor population went up by one.
In 1987, when there were just 22 of the birds in existence, the U.S. government embarked on a plan to capture them all, reasoning that the chances of growing the species to sustainable numbers would be better if the birds were protected from poachers and lead poisoning—as carrion-eaters (classed as new world vultures) the condors frequently ingested lead shot while eating dead animals felled by hunters. A recent article at Audubon California states there are 394 total condors alive today, with 205 of them living in the wild.
(There are two species of condor: the California and the Andean condor. Both are among the largest birds in the world, with respective wingspans of roughly nine and ten feet.)
A new California condor is a big deal, and on Saturday, March 10, people all over the world witnessed a chick hatching thanks to the San Diego Zoo’s Condor Cam. Michael Mace, Curator of Birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is enthusiastic about the capacity of the Condor Cam to bring the birds to a curious public: “For the next five to six months, people are going to see what no one has ever seen before, other than biologists studying the species.”
The California condor is considered sacred by many tribes, sometimes on a par with the eagle. According to some sources, there is a legend of the Chumash people of central and southern California that says that if the California condor goes extinct, so too will the Chumash. It is fitting then, that this new chick, like its parents Sisquoc and Shatash, will have a name from the Chumash language. The San Diego Zoo is currently taking suggestions for Chumash names via its Facebook page.